Today I would like to focus on two words: rest and family. Each plays a significant role in the reason for my visit home to Brazil every January. Interestingly the first reading for the Mass yesterday came from Genesis, where we read:
“On the seventh day God completed the work he had been doing; he rested on the seventh day from all the work he had undertaken” (Genesis 2:2).
We live in a culture of doing more, working harder, and pushing ourselves to or beyond the point of exhaustion. The teaching in Genesis makes clear this is not God’s intent for His children.
Last Saturday’s Gospel continues to reveal God’s desire for rest to all those who labor. After the disciples had worked hard sharing the Good News, healing the sick, and ministering, Jesus instructed them to come to a deserted place and rest. It is interesting that not only our human nature but also our spiritual nature recognizes the need to recharge so we can continue to provide and maintain the care, vocation, or services we are called to do.
“The apostles gathered together with Jesus and reported all they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while” (Mark 6:30-31).
In addition to rest, the family also plays a vital role in our physical, emotional, and spiritual welfare. Families are a place where people feel accepted and loved—not for what they have or for what they are capable of, or even what they do—but simply because they came into this world. It is the family that extends the creation of the world and of humanity, seeking to cultivate and perpetuate love. With this in mind, it is important that we nurture the relationships of family in our lives so that we spend time together to connect with our loved ones.
We are born and raised in a family; being a part of a family community and making the time to connect with them, especially in person, is essential for our well-being. Family is the foundation of society; our homes are our domestic churches. Popes Paul VI and John Paul I both used the term, but it was John Paul II who defined the term and developed a theology around it in his apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio. The greatest example of a Domestic Church comes from the Holy Family of Nazareth—Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.
“Look at how good and pleasing it is when families live together as one” (Psalm 133:1).
We’re not made for isolation; we are made for connection, and that is first made in our families. It is not by mistake that during holidays we gravitate to our family. We come together around the table to share a meal and to share stories. I do not have that privilege often with my family in Brazil; however, I relish my once-a-year visit, which allows me to spend time with them. I treasure every moment, especially with my mother, who is now 92 years old. Even though she is becoming fragile, it was evident that having family around her breathed an energizing life into her. We saw her brighten with her family, all six generations, around her. Her demeanor, her spirit, and even her house look different, surrounded and filled with her beloved family.
My mother is blessed to be able to have the great blessing of knowing her great, great, great-granddaughter, as seen in this picture representing six generations. That is not very common to have this blessing, and my family recognizes what a precious blessing this is.
“As for me and my family, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:15).
Probably at some time, we have taken our family for granted. We may consider being family to be common, ordinary, mundane, and perhaps even dull. Yet for the Christian way of life, no experience calls us to more awesome responsibility than our being family. We learn the meaning of LOVE in the experience of love within the family. We learn the meaning of FAITH from the example of faithfulness we know in the family. We learn the meaning of FORGIVENESS from the experience of being forgiven within the family.
Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life
To celebrate the Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life, I gathered with the Religious of the Diocese. This special day is celebrated by the Church every year in February on the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord.
The day started with camaraderie, prayer, and reflection led by Father Stephen Coffey, a Benedictine Monk who lives at the Monastery of the Risen Christ in San Luis Obispo, CA. After the talk, I presided over the Mass, concelebrated by various religious priests in attendance. A luncheon then followed, during which I honored Sr. Roberta O’Connell of the Congregation of the Faithful Companions of Jesus for her 35 years of service in the Diocese of Fall River at St. Luke’s Hospital in New Bedford and at Charlton Hospital in Fall River.
Yours in Christ,
Bishop da Cunha